I am having breakfast now in a really cool art house somewhere in Puerto Princesa and I have been thinking about our Palawan journey that has taken us to Coron then El Nido and now Puerto Princesa, the last leg of our tour. My very good friend D took me with her entire family and I just can’t be grateful enough that since we started on this tour, I have not been spending that much. Suffice it to say that an all-expense-paid trip around Palawan is a gift of friendship that, although does not really measure your friendship, says about the kind of relationship you want to nurture with each other.
I am extremely grateful.
But aside from this gift of friendship, I am grateful for this opportunity to travel around Palawan because it has taken me to get to know some really interesting Filipinos whose kindness is just immeasurable. Their enduring faith in the Philippines also makes me really proud to be a Filipino. Certainly, some of the country’s gentlest individuals reside in Palawan. From Kuya Roland, the driver of the van we hired in Coron, to Kuya Ondo, our tour guide slash driver from El Nido to Puerto Princesa, everyone that we’ve met on the road is a gentle reminder that we shouldn’t give up on our country.
I love the Philippines.
Even when our resorts are not at par with Hawaii’s accommodations. Even when our island-hopping tours are not as organized as the ones in the Caribbean. Even when it takes infinite hours to get from one destination to the next. Even when some of our own try to rip our fellow kababayans off.
That’s the beauty of our country. And realizing that kind of beauty that we have requires a deeper understanding and an appreciation of where our country is now, where it was before, and where it wants to be in the future. Our country is rugged, it does not always call for a first-class accommodation. It does not compete with California or London. It calls for an adventure that’s not duplicated in the Middle East or in Northern Europe. It asks you to see that its imperfections and rawness comprise the entire package.
It’s a country where most people in the countryside rely on farming and fishing and tourism is something that mostly takes flight during summer. My friend D told me that according to United Nations standard, for a person to be considered living in poverty line, he has to survive on US$1 a day. I don’t think most of our fellowmen who reside in the provinces even get to earn that money everyday.
So, try to understand, but more importantly, correct a kababayan who tries to cheat on you. Offer him your genuine Filipino smile or a pat on the back or a classic Filipino joke. That sure breaks any barrier and melts any doubt. When you show them how sincere you are and not pretend like you have the money to buy the world, they show you that part of their selves that makes you grateful you are a Filipino.
Let us support local tourism and our fellow kababayans and the unique experience that goes with our domestic travels. Really, we don’t need a Shang or a Pen or an Oriental on every island. When your view is this good, why would you consume your time enjoying your hotel’s US$200 air-conditioning?
Get out. Let the sun touch your skin. Mingle. Listen to your countrymen’s stories. And appreciate yourself even better.
Matamang salamat, Palawan! Salamat, D!
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust!
- Photograph taken on March 2012 with a Canon 550d while lounging around The Alternative, in El Nido, Palawan.